Dismantling Racism in the RCA

The RCA is committed to working toward a multiracial and multicultural future freed from racism. This goal is named as a priority for Transformed & Transforming, the RCA’s vision statement. Dismantling racism is also central to one of the RCA’s doctrinal Standards, the Belhar Confession. We believe racism is sinful. And we are actively working to uncover and dismantle racism in ourselves and the systems we’re part of. 

“The RCA commitment is to name racism as a sin, and to work against its prevalence and pervasiveness both within our relationships and our denominational system, and in the wider domestic and global communities. Our efforts at eradicating racism call for us to change not only our systems but also our hearts for each other and for the life matters that concern each other.”

—RCA general secretary’s interpretation, General Synod Council Ends Policy E-5

This work is informed by more than 60 years of guidance from General Synod, the broadest assembly in the RCA, which has repeatedly spoken against racism and the harm it does to God’s people, God’s church, and God’s world. General Synod has encouraged the church in general, and the RCA is particular, to repent of racism, and to stand in the gap and work toward equality.

Ways to get involved

1 Cor. 13 Project

At its heart, racism is a discipleship issue. The 1 Cor. 13 Project is rooted in discipleship. What are the ways that we need to reckon with our own failure to love others? How do we fall short of Christ’s love as a community? Racism is ultimately a failure of love. Founded by RCA minister Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier, this project shows the church a more excellent way that is grounded in Scripture.

Related: 1 Cor. 13 Bible Study

Dismantling Racism Prayer Gatherings

Prayer intercessors are warmly welcomed to join us for our bi-monthly dismantling racism prayer gatherings on alternate Tuesdays, 1:30–2:30 p.m. Eastern. Gatherings are hosted by Rev. Nancy Boote, Rev. Dr. Micheal Edwards, Deacon Cynthia Peters, Rev. Dr. Joanne Van Sant, and other committed leaders. Contact Rev. Liz Testa at etesta@rca.org to learn more. 

See upcoming gatherings and RSVP.

Space for Non-Black People of Color/Ethnic Diversity 

We all have our own part to play in the work of dismantling racism, but we don’t all have the same part or the same needs. Emerging from the work of the 1 Corinthians 13 project came a desire for non-Black people of color to explore and discuss how to contribute to dismantling racism in their own unique way. The equity-based hospitality and advocacy ministry teams will be providing listening space for Latino(a), Asian, Native American, and Multiracial ministry leaders to share history, current realities, and personal stories to discern the ways we are called to bring about racial justice in our own context. Virtual listening sessions will begin in late Spring 2021. Contact Eduardo Rodriguez at erodriguez@rca.org if you’re interested.

Beyond Words Movement

The Beyond Words: Count Us In Movement is a multi-city, ecumenical initiative in which faith leaders and pastors take direct action to address structural injustice and systemic racism. In collaboration with Beyond Words, the RCA is inviting ministry leaders on a journey toward justice that explores the way we build our relationships, use our financial resources, understand history, share the gospel, and live out God’s call to love our neighbor. Contact Rev. Pete Watts at pwatts@rca.org to learn more and get involved.

Robben Island Project

To create a future freer from racism, it’s important to invest in the youth that will become tomorrow’s leaders. The Robben Island Project equips college students to work toward justice for people on the margins by taking them on a hands-on, immersive journey through history in the places where it happened and is happening today. Along the way, the students grow in faith, develop their leadership skills, and put together a project to apply their learnings in their own neck of the woods. The pilot group for this project completed their journey together in early 2020. A second group will launch in fall 2021.

Resources

1 Corinthians 13 Bible Study

This Bible study invites you to consider the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 through the lens of race. You’ll grapple with America’s failure to love Black people and journey from unloving to loving through biblical study, personal reflection, and engagement with Black voices. This free Bible study is an excellent introduction to the 1 Cor. 13 Project.  

Responding to Anti-Asian Hate and Standing with the AAPI Community

Bias, hate, and violence toward people of Asian descent have been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The RCA stands with the AAPI community against this vitriol. The RCA first responded in April 2020 with a statement and collection of resources and stories focused on standing with Asians against racism and bias. In May 2021 the RCA renewed this call to stand with the AAPI community following a spate of violence toward people of Asian descent, including the slaying of eight people in Atlanta, Georgia. The RCA also re-published this statement of lament from the NCC in response to the Atlanta shootings in March 2021.

Prayers for Racial Harmony

You can draw on this collection of prayers to guide and inspire you as you pray for a multiracial and multicultural future freed from racism. Note that these prayers are not just asking for everyone to get along; justice and love pave the path to harmony. 

Lament Toolkit

There are no easy answers or quick fixes to the sin of racism. And we cannot erase the pain and suffering racism has already caused. The practice of lament is a biblical way to respond to the pain of racism. This toolkit provides ways to practice lament on your own or as a church. 

The Black Manifesto and the RCA

In 1969, James Forman and members of the Black Economic Development Conference issued the Black Manifesto, which called upon the RCA and other U.S. churches to take responsibility in the form of reparations for their role in slavery and segregation. Forman took over the denominational office in New York as a form of protest and later brought his message directly to the floor of General Synod. Forman’s challenge to the RCA ultimately led to the formation of the African American Black Council. The Reformed Church Center at New Brunswick Theological Seminary hosted an event in 2019 to relearn and reflect on how the RCA responded to the Black Manifesto 50 years after Forman brought it to the RCA. 

Learn about the RCA’s response to the Black Manifesto. 
Read the Black Manifesto. 

Denominational commissions and racial/ethnic councils

The RCA has three councils dedicated to representing members and congregations who belong to racial/ethnic communities. The Commission on Race and Ethnicity also advises the denomination on issues of race. 

Commission on Race and Ethnicity

The Commission on Race and Ethnicity advises the church on policies and initiatives that address issues of institutional racism and the commitment of the RCA to become a fully multicultural and multiethnic denomination. It serves as an advocate for transformation of the RCA in regard to its multiracial and multiethnic life.

African American Black Council (AABC)

In addition to being the voice of African American and black congregants and congregations in the RCA, the AABC also advocates for policies of inclusion and economic, social, and racial justice.

Council for Hispanic Ministries

In addition to being the voice of Hispanic congregants and congregations in the RCA, the council also advocates for policies of inclusion and economic, social, and racial justice. All Hispanic RCA ministers of Word and sacrament, commissioned pastors, elders, and deacons are encouraged to join.

Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries

In addition to being the voice of Pacific and Asian American congregants and congregations in the RCA, CPAAM also advocates for policies of inclusion and economic, social, and racial justice.

Perspectives and stories

Robben Island Project participants gathered around a fire holding hands and praying

Confronting Racism and Its Ugly Past to Change the Future

Through the Robben Island Project, six college students explored intersections of racism, history, and their personal life journeys; developed their own leadership skills; experienced spiritual formation; and put together a project and process that they could bring back to their own context.

A handshake

Calling, Leadership, the Black Church, and Soul Care: A Conversation with Earl James and Peter Watts

As Earl James prepared to retire as the RCA’s coordinator for advocacy and the African American Black Council and Pete Watts prepared to step into James’s shoes, they reflected on calling, their experiences as Black leaders, and the future of the church.

Stories of RCA Black Women Lay Leaders in New York City: 1960s-1980s

Rev. Anna Jackson shares her research on the leadership of Black lay women in the New York area within both the local church and the denomination during the 1960s through 1980s. As part of her research, she conducted oral interviews with several of the women and people who knew them. This video presentation was part of the Reformed Church Center 2021 Women’s Stories Day. 

Man holding a Bible in one hand standing in the middle of a road

Is Racism a Discipleship Issue? This White Millennial Pastor Thinks So.

Joe Graham, a millennial pastor, discusses the work of dismantling racism and what it has to do with discipleship. Graham also explains why he decided to take this work seriously in his church, even though it meant upsetting some of the members. 

A man kneeling with his head bowed on a pew in prayer; a Bible is on the pew next to him

A Call to Justice and Mercy

Rev. Dr. Patricia Sealy challenges the church to speak out with a prophetic voice for justice and mercy in response to racial injustice. Adapted from a sermon, this piece looks to the prophet Zechariah for a biblical model.